Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Top 3 travel things to do in Greenwich, England

My boyfriend (we’ll call him X) moved to the US from England when he was young, but always has been strongly drawn “back home”. When a business opportunity for him to train in the UK for three weeks came up, I immediately bought a ticket to join him.

Obviously London is just one of the coolest places on the planet, but X was itching for a day trip to Greenwich. This is where he was born and where he spent many summers exploring the town with Mom, Dad and his brothers. I was thrilled to experience it too, as I heard it was soaked in nautical history. I’m not crazy about the past, let’s be honest, but having X show me around was like hiring an expert tour guide without the price tag.

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After getting off the tube, we walked a few minutes through the streets of town and made it to the banks of the Thames. Here is the massive Cutty Sark ship, now encased in a display structure made of glass around its base. It’s the last surviving tea clipper ship and still looks magnificent as I’m sure it did decades ago.

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Honestly, I completely forget where we wandered after that, but X brought me to a museum in a massive columned white building. Maybe the Queen’s House? Anyway, doesn’t matter, because they had KNIGHT STUFF. Move over 8-year-olds, I have some imagination to do.

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Next stop was the Maritime Museum, full of shiny things and interactive exhibits. The highlight for me was the temporary Ansel Adams display, who was the reason I got into writing and snapping photos. Funnily enough the pictures were curated by a museum back home in Massachusetts and transported to Greenwich. I did love this place but started to glaze over a little when X went on a giant diatribe about the British hero, Horatio Lord Nelson.

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It was pretty unbelievable to see the actual jacket worn by this vice-admiral – the same one he was shot in while doing battle. You can easily see the bullet holes.

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Before wandering around the observatory, we waged a battle of our own to stand on either side of the Prime Meridian, which was established in the 1800s to help ships navigate the nearby waters.

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This is just a beautiful area. You hike up some stairs or come through the park at a gentler slope and are rewarded with a vista of the city below. Alongside the prime meridian is the observatory, with London’s only planetarium.

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I have a French macaron problem/addiction/obsession. This is only exacerbated because there’s none to be found in Boston. So when I’m anywhere else I drop everything at the sight, including buying one of these blue ones at an outdoor market that cost 7 DOLLARS, but I digress. Totally worth it.

When you make it out to Greenwich and have a sunny day to spare, don’t miss these three spots:

1. Cutty Sark

2. National Maritime Museum

3. Royal Observatory

It’s a charming detour for its marketplaces, museums and pubs off the beaten path. It’s not the suburbs, but it’s a lot slower paced and offers stunning views of the greenery below when you stroll through the hilly parks. I’m a little jealous X comes from such an amazing little place.

Have you ventured outside central London on your trips? Find anything cool?

Next week I’m taking a little road trip to New Jersey. Let me say, I can’t get enough of my car and the open road. PS, his name is Jose, he’s a little black coupe, Latin and bisexual. Which suits me perfectly for a quality, reliable road trip partner.

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A clueless walk around London’s art scene

I don’t know the difference between a Monet and Matisse. Alright I do a little, but go with it.

While in London I was on complete sensory overload and was trying to keep my mind distracted from the bitter cold. Of course I visited the museum and got an eye-full of naked marble statues, but right out on the streets is where some of the city’s hidden creative jewels lie. Sometimes I didn’t know what I was looking for, others popped right out of the scenery like magic. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and it can be seen all day, everyday, especially when in a fresh location.

This isn’t exactly the “scene”, but from an untrained, unhipster viewpoint this is what drew me in at a glance.

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Throughout Box Park there are posters and installations up for the visual taking. Not only is this entire complex in Shoreditch made of old shipping containers, the restaurants, shops and consumers themselves are all canvases. This print in particular really did make me snort aloud, as it’s a deer wearing a tiger onesie proclaiming “Thanks Mum!” Hoot.

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Art students sketching fashion inside the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. I wish I could draw myself, but I’ll leave it to the experts.

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Statues are obviously a staple in cities, but they can often be overlooked. These horses were running through Piccadilly Circus. How a sculptor can catch movement in stone and metal is beyond me. I could have stared at the details for hours, but tourists were climbing all over them so I moved along quickly.

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Of all the things to see at the Wellcome Collection museum and exhibit, the visitor made mini-drawings were my favorite. The entire wall was lined with these, stored behind two white tables filled with colored pencils, as twenty-somethings furiously scribbled away to add to the installation. I’m not sure there was a rhythm or reason, but I found them to be a small, small window into the mind on a whim.

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Some more highlights from the visitor installation and the Wellcome Center in Camden.

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And yes, here you go. A marble man from the V&A museum, bits covered for the young viewers. All the same, London’s streets, museums, people, food, dirt, performers, lights, sounds – all of it is art. It all adds to the city equally and nothing would be the same without each part playing a role. Cities like London are the best, because no matter how many times I return, things will change and it will be new, as I venture to alleyways, exhibits and into the night.

Who else has been to London? I adore the idea that we all take in things completely differently. What caught your eye?


Y Ddraig Goch ddyry gychwyn! & Other Nonsense from a Southern Wales Wanderlust


Oh, London. London, England, is full of dynamite people and things to see and beverages to drink and the queen and…well alright, who doesn’t want to go to London. But there’s something just as good about a three hour drive west of the city. It’s a whole other country that’s lush, friendly and inexplicably exciting too.
Wales is too often overlooked. Yes it does blend into England and yes many people aren’t even really sure if it’s a separate country. What Wales does have though is a beautiful simplicity throughout their people and landscape.

Like any new place, most travelers want to dive right in and try a bit of everything. There are a few essentials though to make your Welsh experience really unforgettable.

Go walk the beaches. Not quite for tanning in the winter, but breathtaking nonetheless.
Beaches exist in places other than tropical islands and at stereotypical destinations. Wales has plenty of beaches, and is best known for sheer cliffs of massive, brilliant size. South Glamorgan boasts striking cliff walks that can be done from above and below. A view from either the top of the cliff or from the sand near the ocean have a 360 view of sea and sky, impressive at any time of year. Pretty pinks and purples emerge at sunset, looking good enough to pluck from the sky for dessert.

Step back into the past while visiting old castle ruins.

Anyone can fork over a big entrance fee for a beautifully restored medieval castle. But what really gives southern Wales character is its downtrodden, crumbling old castles of what used to be. In a small village called Ogmore for example, there are some very simple walls and rooms left of what used to be Ogmore Castle. The beauty of it is where your imagination can take you.

They may be just bricks now, but classic and dignified families used to habituate this place. It’s humble placement along a peaceful waterway leading out to the nearby ocean. By reading up on a little history, it’s been discovered that this castle had grand staircases and ordinate fireplaces way ahead of its time in the 1100’s. Standing in anything constructed over 400 years before America was even discovered is pretty darn impressive.

Only a couple hours away is another castle called Ragland. This one includes a moat and climbable towers with incredible views of the always-green countryside.

Good luck with the local language.

Now this is a treat. If you’re familiar with Europe, you may have been able to pick up a couple words in Spain, Italy or even France just by a few similar sounding letters. But take the word “Wales” for instance; in Welsh, it’s spelled “Gymru.” Give that one a try. Most bookstores in Wales carry phrasebooks and dictionaries of this challenging language. Although it’s not commonly used, especially in the south, some locals will still utilize it and the education systems regularly keep Welsh alive and well.

Sometimes the tourist traps are actually hidden local gems.

An old coal mine in southern Wales may not be what you’d think of to explore at first, but places that make local school kids fall asleep could be something totally new and different for a visitor to Wales. “The Pit” as it’s affectionately called was closed in 1980 and reopened three years later to the public. Donning the standard miner hardhat and safety belt, visitors venture a couple hundred feet underground to learn history and mystery of the coal mining business. The retired miners make the trip with their thick dialogues and love of the profession through clever stories and wit. Big Pit National Museum is in the town of Blaenavon, a 45 minute drive from the capital of Cardiff.

Have some local brews at pubs older than dirt.

When you have since 1383 to perfect a good tall tale, you know now in 2011 it’ll be one hell of a story. The Plow and Harrow’s humble beginnings connect them to monks and monasteries. Later on though, the pub was said to be the last home of dead sailors and afterwards ghosts of dead sailors that liked to rattle old tables and chairs, even to this day. Super creepy and brilliantly Welsh, that’s famous for elaborate histories. It may take a couple tried to find this one tucked inside the town of Monknash, but the lore alone is worth it.
Beer at any pub in Wales is always a staple, but don’t forget the hard cider. It tickles your nose a little less and has that great adult apple juice taste. Most pubs have a few on tap and the tenders are happy to advise on their favorites.

Enjoy your trip, and as a last cautionary tale: drive slow, for there’s sometimes more sheep than people! Pob lwc! Good luck!

–Eileen Cotter (CrookedFlight) is a Contributor to The Free George.

Original post can be found here:


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